Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Under Construction

This essay was written tonight and is a work VERY much in progress.

“The Line”
Jacob Tsypkin

I once had a conversation with two members of a Christian fellowship based on my junior college campus. We were discussing the origins of religion and basis of faith in God. I pointed out that many religions had texts far older than the bible, telling of their Gods and their laws – why should I blindly accept that Christ is the one true path to heaven? One of the men was very talkative, but the other was quiet and contemplative. I asked him why he did not want to take part in the conversation, hoping I had not somehow offended him. He looked at me and said in a mildly bewildered voice “I just don’t understand. Everyday, in everything I do, I feel the Lord my God within me and around me. I feel the love of Christ, and I just don’t understand how you don’t feel it too. I don’t identify with you. You’re on the other side of a line that I crossed a long time ago.”

I immediately thought this was bullshit, a way to get out of having to provide any logical arguments. Since when did having different beliefs from someone else mean that you couldn’t see their side of the story? But thinking on it later, I realized that I was, in fact, an idiot. People, myself included, do this everyday. It happens in everything we do, from the minor and inconsequential (“Charmin is by far the best brand of toilet paper”) to the major and world altering (“Christ is the one true way to Heaven!”). You may be particularly fond of Toyotas and have trouble understanding why some people prefer Fords. As an Olympic weightlifter, I just can’t figure out why every time I go to the gym I see dozens of people doing nothing but bench press and bicep curls. I have crossed a line, and I can no longer see what’s on the other side.

Everyone is searching for something better: A better car, a better house, a better partner, a better life. Most people are, in some way or another, searching for God, or a higher power, or any kind of proof that there is something else out there, something after this life ends, attempting to stifle their fear of death with the belief that it is not the end. Generally this faith is found in a Church or a Synagogue, or within the pages of the Koran or Taoist scrolls. Somehow the laws and structure of religion make it easier for people to believe – or at least to convince themselves that they believe. But I don’t think that’s the answer.

The Quakers believe that every single human being has a piece of God in them, and that religion of any kind is simply a way of locating that piece of God and getting in touch with it. They call this concept “inner divinity”. Aside from making the Quakers a pretty cool bunch of people – they were among the first abolitionists in the colonies, after all – this idea has spurred me on to realize something: Religion is passion. If God makes us happy, and we are happy doing what we are passionate about, one could argue that this is a infallible notion. I rarely feel more complete than when I have my hands wrapped around the cold steel of a barbell, struggling and straining (and sometimes screaming) as I battle seemingly insurmountable odds. Sometimes I get the lift, other times I don’t – either way, I feel like I am as in touch with whatever higher power is out there (or within me) as I could ever be. You, with your love of Toyotas, may experience this feeling after spending a few hours in your garage changing your fluids and tuning up your ever faithful ’91 Camry.

So in everything we do, there is a line. We always start out by treading carefully right along it, as if we were children playing that game where everything on the sides of the line is hot lava – don’t get burned! But eventually the lava on one side turns into warm ocean waters, so blue and inviting, and we cannot understand what we EVER saw on the other half. It is my belief that one side of that line, the side that calls to us and draws us on, contains that piece of God that can be found within each human being. Crossing that line, finding our passion, could be the answer to our eternal questions. It could be the only reason we are here. The beauty of it is, once we find that reason, it is enough. So you can tell me all you want that Christ is the only true path to Heaven, and good for you for having such passion.

I still firmly believe that Heaven is a squat rack.

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